By Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
The United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF has called for a change of attitude in the registration of children under five in Benue State, pointing out that currently birth registration of children under 5 in the state is very poor.
The Head of UNICEF Enugu Field Office, Dr Ibrahim Conteh made this known during a day of stakeholder engagement with religious, traditional and community leaders from Katsina-Ala government areas , Ukum, Logo, Kwande and Vandeikya State Party held at NKST Central Katsina-Ala Church on Thursday.
Represented by UNICEF Child Protection Specialist, Enugu Field Office, Mr. Victor Atuchukwu, Conteh said that according to a 2018 survey, out of 100 children born in Benue under the age of 5, alone 39% have been registered and of the 39%, only 22% are registered with NPC. Another breakdown of statistical data presented by Dr Conteh indicated that in Vandeikya local government only 9% of U-5 children were registered, Katsina-Ala 16%, Vandeikya 9%, Logo 23% and Ukum 36 %.
Although he lamented the AFN’s lack of manpower to carry out child registration and called on the AFN to employ more staff, Conteh urged the few staff available not to slack off. their efforts given the importance of birth registration. He also advised that women should be involved in the sensitization exercise as they are always available at the time of birth registration.
UNICEF’s Enugu Field chief has distinguished between birth certificate and delivery note issued by a hospital, saying a birth certificate should bear the Federal Republic of Nigeria just like the national card , identity card, driver’s license, voter’s card and other means of identification.
He pointed out that birth registration helps curb child trafficking and attracts social amenities in communities, hence UNICEF’s goal that everyone is made aware of the need to register their children.
Earlier, in a welcome speech, Federal Commissioner of the NPC, Barr Patricia Kupchi, represented by the State Director of the Commission, Mr. Stephen Tsemende, said that the NPC is charged with many responsibilities, including registration of children in addition to the population.
“The National Population Commission deals with the population of people, their number and their characteristics. The issue of birth registration is an ongoing exercise and it is important for the AFN, the Communities and the whole nation,” he explained.
In a message of goodwill, the Commissioner of Health and Social Services, Dr Joseph Gbea, represented by the Director of Public Health, Dr Terna Kur, said that the Ministry of Health uses the population to plan the health services, hence their collaboration with UNICEF and the NPC to support birth registration. He has previously said that they collaborate with UNICEF and the NPC in many areas of health care delivery, adding that the connection is obvious.
Speaking on birth registration issues, the Head of Technical Department of the NPC, Mr. Chris Nege, pointed out that people should register both birth and death including stillbirth, adding that Children born out of wedlock must also be registered, but on the condition that the mother must identify the father of the child before the birth registration certificate is issued.
Listing the importance of birth registration, Mr. Nege said it gives the child the legal right to be enrolled in schools and to open a bank account. Other benefits according to him include the right to marry, to be baptized, to vote and to be elected. He warned that there is a time limit for birth registration which is 7 days but it depends on the cultural context.
Stakeholders and representatives of various groups expressed their readiness to cooperate with UNICEF in carrying the message to their communities.
Head of Household of Katsina-Ala Central, Zaki Ayamke Ignatius and Head of Household of Mbaifu in Logo Local Government, Chief Jacob Gbamga appreciated UNICEF for creating the forum and promised to enlighten their topics so that they adopt birth registration.
On their part, James Ahugh of NKST Jato-Aka, Ubor Polycarp of All Saints Parish Tsenge Ugbah, Logo Local Government, Ahobee Simeon of NKST Ahobee of Ukum Local Government and Tsegba James of St Robert’s Rectory, Gbem, Government local from Vandeikya said they would return and inform their church leaders to preach the message to their church members
Also commenting, Kumbur Felix Terna of NKST Ikyowase and Sir Shinyi Sesugh of Zaki-Biam National Evangelical Mission, Ukum Local Government assured that they will convince their people to go to their churches to register their children in order to attract health services.
In a vote of thanks, the APN State Comptroller, Mr. Ben Imande, encouraged the participants not to let up in their efforts to achieve the desired result. He appreciated religious, traditional and community leaders for their cooperation.